How Verizon hopes to level the playing field for working women

This is the first in a series spotlighting five leading companies that relied on HR innovation to confront the challenges of the pandemic and are continuing to transform their workforce.

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Among the many side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a mass exodus of women from the workforce, as they bear the brunt of added caregiving responsibilities and other ongoing inequities.

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Global telecom giant Verizon sought to respond to that trend with a series of tailored programs, including most recently the launch of the Women’s CoLab. Verizon calls the initiative a “collaborative career engine” that offers women everywhere—employees, customers and the public—access to digital resources designed to help them grow professionally and personally. The program will offer free content, thought leadership from industry experts, training and networking opportunities.

Christy Pambianchi of Verizon

“Our vision is to develop a network powered by women for women and call on our partners to create a broader community of support that will ultimately shape a more equitable future,” CHRO Christy Pambianchi wrote in a letter to employees announcing the initiative, with Tami Erwin, CEO of Verizon Business, and Rima Qureshi, chief strategy officer at Verizon.

The trio unveiled the initiative, which is set to launch later this year, on International Women’s Day in March, alongside several other programs, such as the upcoming Women’s Leadership Digital Summit that will bring together women leaders around the world, as well as the Women Own Wednesday campaign. That effort leverages social media to encourage followers to support women-owned businesses.

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The announcements came on the heels of Verizon’s 2020 launch of Women in Business, an initiative that aims to support women entrepreneurs, especially women of color.

In addition to the new support systems that aim to elevate women in the workforce, Verizon revamped everything from development strategies to leave policies in order to strive to retain top diverse talent. For instance, it provided digital skills training for thousands of employees and expanded its backup care program for those balancing work and caregiving.

The shift to remote work and the ensuing fallout challenged HR like never before, Pambianchi told HRE, but it has also presented an “opportunity to throw out the rule book and find new, creative ways” for the organization to support its 133,000 employees. “This meant providing solutions and allowing for more flexibility in working arrangements for all employees, including working parents and women who have been disproportionately negatively affected by the pandemic’s effects.”

Related: Here’s why Verizon is giving employees PTO to vote

Looking ahead, the organization’s Work Forward program is planning for Verizon’s future of work, combining on-site and remote arrangements that are designed to respond to all employees’ need for better work/life integration.

Pambianchi says Verizon’s HR response to the pandemic has been, and will continue to be, rooted in the recognition that empathy can drive people success.

“While we have made sure to support our employees in terms of their personal and professional wellbeing,” she says, “we know the weight of the world around them feels heavy and requires us to always dial up our humanity and empathy.”

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Writer Carol Brzozowski contributed to this story.

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